Categories
Life Work

Don’t wait until you have your sh*t together.

Just be like Nike and go do the damn thing.

Let me tell you, life can get hectic. It’s been difficult to even come up for air at times. I haven’t even taken great care of the blog lately, but hopefully, that will change after implementing a few habits that will fit some writing and web page maintenance into my daily routine. But I don’t have to have it all figured out to do some amazing stuff. Here’s how I go about doing it.

Keep learning as you go. (And never stop.)

My education does not end at my bachelor’s degree. Sure, I don’t have to show up in a classroom to learn these days, but I’m always learning something new. Whether it’s on the job, or while I’m enjoying some time off, I’m still learning every day.

It may look like I have it all under control on the outside. Some days, I do. But there are definitely days where I’ve gotta wing it and see what happens. It involves a bit of risk-taking, which I’m also still learning how to do. I’ve always played it on the safer side of things since that is how I was brought up. Now I am discovering how rewarding it can be to take the chance to pursue what I want.

Stop procrastinating.

Procrastination has always been my worst enemy. I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on some things because of whatever excuse I could figure out. Some were legitimate concerns, such as financial cost, time commitment, etc. Others were quite plainly, just dumb. (Ex: *deciding to scroll through my phone on social media for 2 hours instead of doing something useful*)

Hustle while you wait.

I had to switch my mindset if I wanted anything to change. And it was hard. It took several weeks to really start getting this through my thick skull. I went from thinking “I want to do X, but…” to thinking “What can I do today to get to X?” and it has been life-changing. I stopped focusing on my barriers and started focusing on the actions that I can do in the present moment that would help me get there.

This part of the habit-changing process is boring, tedious, and ruthless. It is the ugly side of every transformation. Nobody really discusses this part. Because it’s not motivating or sexy. It’s hard work. It can even get really painful. This is where you get into the rhythm of doing something regularly, even when you don’t feel like it.

Go get what you want.

Add a 2-year-old toddersaurus rex into the mix, and it can definitely get easier to give up and throw in the towel sometimes. This is where persistence is key. If I fall, I’ve got to get back up. That’s really important.

Sometimes that means writing a blog post while on the kitchen floor playing with cars and a teddy bear with my daughter, who insists that her mama should play. And while chasing a cat out of a Christmas tree every 10 minutes or so. No matter what, I’ve gotta press on. Every minute counts.

Think of the long-haul instead of short term success.

Recently, we’ve put a house in rehab on the back burner because of other jobs and projects that had greater priority. (because of money!) One of the most time-consuming parts of this thing so far has been laying down the new flooring. I knew that if we tried to do it ourselves, we would never make our 2020 deadline we set for ourselves for the house to be complete.

Thankfully, I was able to bring on some additional help who had some experience laying down flooring because frankly, I had none. Zero. This was the first house I have tried doing this sort of thing on. And with just two of us, it took 10 hours to get the majority of the flooring down. (Not bad for a couple of rookies!)

Find the silver lining in every situation.

Sure, it would have been easier for me to just give up and have my hired help do all the work, but I wanted to learn, too. I didn’t want to lose my opportunity to learn something useful for future projects.

Just because I didn’t have the experience in something, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a good try. I approach anything unfamiliar with that mindset. I just need to try. I don’t need to know everything or have all my sh*t together to do something today. I’ll get there.

It took a lot of trial and error for us to get into a groove. But as we learned, we got faster and more efficient at laying each part down correctly. And little by little, the house was transformed. It started to look amazing. Change is hard, so there’s definitely strength in numbers. The people in your corner can make all the difference.

Focus on today.

There’s also another way to look at how important the present moment is, especially as a parent.

Whenever I come home from my day job, it seems like my daughter grows just a little more each and every day. She’s also learning new things and slowly changing herself as well. It’s amazing to see how much she’s changed from last year.

PJ went from crawling and cooing into being a talkative, bubbly and fiercely independent little girl who can run circles around me today. And next year, she will change even more. It’s a wonderful, yet bittersweet thing for me to witness. And she’s definitely not waiting until she feels like she’s got it all figured out. She’s just going for it!

Categories
Life

Why I love being a working mom.

The other day, I had an unfortunate comment thrown my way, and I’m sure other moms who are out there working crazy schedules and trying to balance home and personal life can relate. I’ve heard some crazy stuff for the past few years, but I was totally unprepared for this sentence to be said right to my face:

“You spend more time with work and friends than you do with your own daughter.”

Ouch.

Needless to say, they were pretty much implying that because I wasn’t home very much, it meant that I was a sub-par mom. This person also happened to be raised in a very different time and environment than I was. Maybe they were just having a bad day or something.

Still, I will never, ever allow others to guilt trip me into thinking that being a working mother is bad for my children. I’m actually really sick and tired of having to try and explain myself or justify my reasons for working (besides the obvious income, duh). I don’t know, it seems that I can’t ever win with this mothering thing. Literally, once I had my daughter, it seemed like everyone all of a sudden had an opinion on how to raise my kid.  It can certainly be frustrating at times.

Maybe it’s surprising to some people, but I love to work. Seriously. Whatever I end up doing, I want to do it well and go above and beyond where I can. It’s been in my blood since I was younger. I love learning new things and honing my own skills. Pushing myself to my own limits is something I try to do daily. It also helps that I’m just a tad bit competitive.

I know I’m not the most nurturing type of person sometimes, but I have a lot of other qualities that are mom-worthy. Here are some of my reasons why I love being a working mom:

1. Being a positive role model.

Now, I’ve never thought of myself as marriage material, let alone mother material. I knew that it was a big deal having a kid, especially watching my own mom raise me and my little sister on her own growing up. She was a huge role model for me, and probably one of the main reasons why I continue to work hard today. And I want to be that same kind of positive influence in my own daughter’s life – to encourage her to do what she loves and to pursue her dreams.

I was also delighted to find a study that shows girls who grew up with a working mother tended to surpass the career achievements of those who did not, and also earned 23% more than those with mothers who did not work. (It also showed sons who had working mothers were more likely to contribute to household chores and spent more time towards childcare!)

2. I have a college education in something I enjoy doing.

And I want to use it, damn it! I didn’t spend so much time and money on it for it to start collecting dust.

But until I can get a job in the 419 involving market research, keeping up my copywriting skills and staying up to date on the latest market studies, digital marketing tools and strategies will just have to be the next best thing for now. Being able to use my skills that I have acquired to help others in need is amazing. I just have a natural curiosity about everything and anything, and that helps me continue to learn long after graduation. So you can stop me at any time if I start asking too many questions… it’s just what I like to do!

3. My current lifestyle is nice.

I’m not going to apologize for wanting to earn more money to afford nice things. I grew up sort of poor. Nice things made me nervous (and sometimes still do, I’ll admit. I’m afraid I’m going to break or ruin something…) After working 12-hour shifts during the week, updating and maintaining the blog, and doing household-y things like cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, whatever the thing is – I like to treat myself every now and then. And I freaking deserve it.

4. It keeps life interesting.

My husband also works from time to time, but his work is more seasonal and his schedule is way more unpredictable than mine. Lately, we’ve been swapping war stories about our work environments; mine being in a warehouse and his being on job sites all over Toledo. It gives us a chance to reconnect with each other at the end of the day and there’s always a story to tell each other.

5. My kid has a stronger relationship with her grandparents and dad.

This was something I really wanted my daughter to have, and I am fortunate enough to have a supportive mom and some kick-ass in-laws to help us out in raising PJ. What’s really neat is since both of our families are extremely different, it will give her plenty of exposure to different beliefs and ideas from a very young age, and she will be more tolerant of different views later in life. She has a lot to learn from both sides, and I’m excited to see what she takes away from these amazing people.

Whether a mom decides to stay at home or go back to work, I believe they all deserve some mad respect. After all, they are raising tiny humans. That is really hard work and should be something to be proud of. Keep fighting the good fight, mommas!

working-mom-is-awesome-mom
I love my daughter.
Categories
Health Tech Work

Why “unplugging” from the internet is important for me.

I fondly remember the camping trips I used to take growing up. We loaded up the car until things were starting to spill out of the doors, ran around the house a bit to make sure we didn’t forget anything (except the kitchen sink) and headed towards our favorite camping spot. It wasn’t too far away from where we lived, but it was far enough to be out of the noise of the city, and away from any responsibilities and obligations that we had back home. This was our vacation ritual almost every year, and we all looked forward to it every season.

Once we arrived, the bags got unpacked, the food got cooking, and our phones got turned off and packed away for an entire week. Yes, all the way off. Not on silent or vibrate. We went completely off the map.

Nobody could reach us easily and we could enjoy our family time in peace. I feel like this practice would cause some panic attacks now – but it seemed to be completely normal to do this sort of thing only 10 years ago.

Ha, “only” ten years ago. Look at me throwing around decades of time like it’s nothing. Psh.

2000s-childhood-photo-cringe
Here’s a cringy childhood photo from the early 2000’s – proof that I really am getting older.

So why is it so hard to disconnect these days? Well, the internet is a lot more than what it was back in 2008, cell phones can now do so much more than just contact people, and a sort of obligation of availability seems to have taken hold of a lot of people. We now have online presences to maintain on our social media profiles and websites.

I think we’ve gotten to a place as a society where if we decided to unplug from our online lives, people will actually become concerned that we’ve died or something. (I’m still here, WordPress!) We’ve forgotten that we also have lives offline that need tending to.

The whole morning routine is even impacted by technology. Checking email, catching up on the news, even working out, it all usually involves being online or connected to our smartphones and/or the internet now. I have always done my best to keep a healthy boundary between my offline life and the online world. There are several reasons why I do this, and the biggest of these is to make sure I can stay healthy and productive IRL.

Even my husband and my in-laws will get irritated with me every now and then because I don’t always have my phone on me. There are certain days where a smartphone would be a distraction to me, and if I’m at work or on a job with them somewhere, I will more than likely not have my smartphone physically on me.

Just look at my life for the past few weeks:

  • I’ve picked up more hours at a part-time job, and my employer would not appreciate me updating my blog/Facebook on the clock.
  • We’ve closed on a “fixer-upper” that needs some TLC before someone in Toledo can call it a home, and have been chipping away on the to-do list for that. (Another post on that later!)
  • I have a 1-year-old.
  • The laundry has been piling up.
  • I have friends to hang out with.

… You get the idea, right?

Besides being in a busy season, here are some other important reasons why unplugging needs to be done regularly for me.

For Mental Health

I think of it like brushing my teeth. It’s annoying, but it needs to be done every day or some funky stuff will start happening in my mouth. The same thing applies to my brain. And my eyes. My head will literally start to hurt from all the light of the screens I stare at for hours, and looking at perfect, flawless photos of friends and other things I follow 24/7 is definitely not good for my mental mojo.

Turning off the computer and putting my phone away lets me be more aware of my surroundings, and allows me to be grateful for my life around me. It is good to live in the moment.

For Work

It really wouldn’t be safe for me to be distracted by a YouTube video while trying to use sharp and dangerous power tools that could cut off my arm. I can only multitask to a certain extent – and the more places my attention is, the less effective my work is.

This also applies to my writing. I find if I do it too much, my creativity suffers a bit. If I allow myself to unplug and experience the world going on around me, then I can jump back into the online world later and put those things on paper (or on this blog) for others to read about.

For My Daughter

There would be something seriously sad about missing a big moment of her childhood now because of my inattention due to my smartphone. Or from working too much. Or from being away a lot.

PJ is growing up so fast. Walking has now turned into running – sometimes clumsily into random objects. I really need to keep an eye on her now!

She is a big reason why the unplugging time for me is absolutely mandatory. PJ will not be this little forever, and I’ve got to cherish every moment that I can before I miss it.

For My Husband

Unplugging is definitely a thing that we both can struggle with sometimes, and I know he loves his time online with his friends playing Overwatch or PUBG on the Xbox, and then zoning out on Netflix after a long day. But we’ve both come to a shocking realization – everything on our bodies is starting to hurt and we are getting older by the minute.

There are so many things we want to get out and do together before we get so old that we can’t move well anymore – and we also need the time together to keep our relationship solid. Even if it’s just a few minutes in the morning sipping coffee together in the kitchen before we head to our jobs. Quality time offline to connect and check in with each other is so important!

For Freedom!

*cue screeching ‘Murica eagle here*

wat-eagle-reddit-murica
“lol wat?”

It is so liberating to not have any strings attached when I decide to go offline and to explore and to just live my effing life! As I’m wrapping up this blog post, I’m already thinking about what I’m about to go do next on a rare day off. I’m waiting for Dan and PJ to wake up from their naps. Maybe we’ll go to the park or something, but everyone is definitely looking forward to spending family time together today until Dan has to report to work this evening.

Gotta take advantage of chances like these to relax! I’ll be back soon with the story of our latest project soon.

 

Categories
Life Work

Career or children? How I’m coping and striving to have both.

Let’s face it – being a parent is hard work. And it’s severely underappreciated.

I’m not even in the thick of it myself yet and I can already feel the struggles of motherhood weighing down on me. Work-life balance is the newest sought after thing as today’s parents desperately try to maintain a workload of a full-time career and the workload of raising children.

We underestimate how much this balancing act will cost us, and without taking adequate time for self-care and rest, we end up with burnout. In my experience, this is not pleasant at all and can take a period of time to recover fully from to feel somewhat back to normal.

EJ Dickson from Bustle wrote in her latest blog post “Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right” that many young women today feel like they must choose between a career or having kids since it has become simply impossible to manage both. Multiple factors to take into account here are the high costs of childcare, previous student loan debt and high medical bills, the stigma working mothers face after returning to work (not being able to join happy hour or taking leave for a sick child), and maternity leave policies, or lack thereof, that provide little to no support during a big life change.

reddit_twitter_image
Why is everything expensive?

It’s no wonder younger women are placing value on work over motherhood lately. Even in my case, I had placed value in my career in over prospects of marriage and having children because I had spent 5 years of my life (and plenty of hard-earned cash) investing in myself for the work that I had wanted to do.

So when the big news did come crashing through my bathroom door, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was happy, but it felt like any future career opportunities had died that day. Once I saw that test come back positive, it felt like I was literally flushing away all of my hard work and my now worthless bachelor’s degree down the toilet.

I had to reinvent myself and start over. And it was hard. My work identity fiercely fought against my new mom identity and had started to fade into nothingness. Somewhere in there, I lost myself among the bills, the deadlines, and the dirty diapers. I was a complete disaster. Along with the postpartum depression crap that was happening to me at the time, it all really sucked.

family-car-husband-baby-wife
Candid family photo as we wait for business partners to arrive.

After a while, I had a sudden realization – Since when has anything in my life been perfectly linear? Sure, I face more obstacles if I choose to continue down the career path I had chosen at the beginning, but life has a tendency to throw wrenches in plans of any sort that I try to make. Big events like these force me to slow down, take note of how I’m feeling, and see if I need to adjust my course.

I’m thankful that PJ came into my life when she did. She helped me remember what I felt was the most important to me in life. Of course, I do have moments where I fondly remember the freedom I had before having her, but now whenever she stays for an extended visit with Grandma, I find myself missing her and covering her in smooches and hugs when she returns.

After I reviewed my options, I found that it would be best for me to take a brief pause in my career. However, I would not leave the workforce entirely though, that would completely ruin me. I’m the kind of person who needs to work or I would end up going nuts.

So currently, I’m working a few side jobs while I am continuing to network, study up on industry trends, and preparing myself to get my hands dirty when I am finally ready to hit the ground running back into the marketing world. Maybe if I have the time, I’ll conduct some field research. That may be wishful thinking at the moment with how full my plate has been lately!

I have to keep in mind, this season is only a detour. Not the end of my working days. Not the end of what I’ve worked so hard to attain.

baby-eating-cupcake-birthday-one-year
PJ with her first cupcake for her first birthday.

And the more that I work on my own, I find that I like being able to be my own boss and call the shots. What would stop me from starting my own business? (I’m already a part of the in-laws’ family business in real estate!) Of course, I could come up with a million reasons on why I shouldn’t even bother, but it’s an option I’ve been considering for a while now. If anything, life and motherhood have been trying to get it through my thick skull that I need to be fearless.

And after this past year, I think I’ve finally been enabled to be just that. I was so concerned with doing things a certain way, and I was trying to take a more traditional path towards success. That path caused me to have a lot of anxiety if things didn’t happen like I wanted, and it caused me to cling on to a job I wasn’t completely happy in. Baby PJ came into our lives and turned it upside-down, dumping out all of the junk and silly things that had collected over the years. Things in our lives that did not improve our well-being were completely eliminated. Children definitely make you re-evaluate your life and priorities, and they leave no room for things that serve no purpose.

My fear of failure in everything was finally defeated by failing over and over again. I eventually got used to it. I’m finally able to be at peace if things become unpredictable and blow up in my face. PJ has also forced me to be very efficient with my time management. (And that’s a good thing!) With these two critical things, I can face new challenges without withdrawing into my shell – free of the perfectionist chip that was on my shoulder.

While I’m here in this season, I must remember to be thankful, to keep learning and working (even if it’s outside my field), and remember to breathe and take care of myself so that I can be the best version of myself that I can be for me, my husband, and my dear daughter.

Categories
Life Uncategorized Work

Boobs, bottles and breast pumps: How I managed to survive breastfeeding.

**Okay, here’s a disclaimer before we begin. You are about to read my personal experiences with breastfeeding. I talk about my boobs here and if that makes you uncomfortable, please stop reading now and go do something nice for yourself. Maybe treat yourself to some ice cream and go get your haircut or… something. You do you.**

Alright, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to rant a little bit about the challenges that I’ve faced while nursing and pumping for my daughter these past 8 months. (Woo! only 4 months until I meet my goal!)

I didn’t really give too much thought of whether I would breastfeed or give formula while I was pregnant. As I was en route to the hospital to deliver PJ, I was at peace with either method, as long as my daughter was getting fed and was healthy, that’s all that mattered to me. Without a second thought, I flung myself into the responsibilities and incredible discipline that came with breastfeeding and pumping.

The first few months were HARD.  The first few weeks? Almost unbearable.

While I spent my first few days with our new little bundle of joy, I was in a complete fog. I think I was still in shock that I had actually delivered my baby without dying and that I was holding her and looking at her for the first time. But soon enough, she became very hungry. The lactation consultant would come into the room and latch her onto my breast but did not really explain to me what I was about to experience.

“It will feel a little tender at first, but nursing shouldn’t hurt.”

Don’t listen to people who tell you this. These kinds of statements are LIES.

I screamed in agony as PJ tried to latch on to nurse for the first time. My boobs were definitely not ready to be my baby’s new chew toy. We had a lot of problems right out the gate. Her latch wasn’t great, as this was a skill that babies actually have to learn to be able to drink at the breast efficiently. I didn’t get the memo that this was something that had to be practiced in order to be able to work. I fumbled with my other breast and tried to perform what was called the “nipple sandwich” in order to feed my squished nipple to PJ.

Surprisingly, if you keep trying to put one of the most sensitive parts of your body into a hungry newborn’s mouth, you end up with pain. Lots of pain. Imagine that.

Tears were rolling down my face as the nurse and lactation consultant tried their best to console me. They believed PJ was not getting enough milk, and so they brought out these small, 3-ounce bottles of Enfamil to feed her and to encourage her to sleep. Even though I knew before stepping into the hospital that I would be okay if breastfeeding didn’t work out, I was totally devastated in the moment. I thought that this was something my body was supposed to do, and I started to think that I was a defective mother right from the start. Of course, this was while my hormones were out of whack and I was far, far away from recovering from the delivery, but my feelings were real.

I didn’t give up. I used the hospital pump religiously around the clock to see if I could give breastfeeding another go. Holding one pump funnel onto one breast, and holding the baby in my other arm, I tried to pump and nurse PJ at the same time in my hospital bed. At the end of the second night, my nipples became raw, cracked and started to bleed a bit. It was not a pretty sight. I was not a pretty sight. I felt like a great big mess the entire time I was recovering.

And then, we got the discharge papers.

I was not ready to go home without knowing I had tried my best to get the milk flowing for my daughter, but I knew the nurses had better things to do than deal with this weeping, squishy blob of a woman who was formerly myself. I kept trying. And kept trying some more.

And then, a miracle happened.

I got a quarter of an ounce of milk from one pump! From just a few drops, I was starting to make more of what I needed to feed PJ, and I was over the moon with this achievement.

But after I got home and googled everything about breastfeeding and why I was having so much trouble, I found that what I was experiencing was NORMAL.

Apparently, most newborns only need about an ounce or so of milk in the first week of life. And it is common for women to make only an ounce or less in the beginning. And the nurses were giving my newborn 3-oz bottles of formula. Huh.

The pain eventually started to subside as I kept pumping and nursing, but it wasn’t until after 4 long months that I noticed it became a little less painful. I was able to get used to the sensation at that point.

I used my pump at home just as religiously while I was on my medical leave, practicing for the big day when I would be returning to my office job, about a half an hour away from home. Bigger challenges were ahead of me, but for the moment, I was just happy to be out of the hospital and back home where I needed to be for the next few weeks.

 

door warning
What my HR manager and I  originally wanted to use as a “do not disturb” sign.

Returning to work was another great obstacle I faced when trying to keep my milk supply up and prevent some painful conditions, such as mastitis. Babies are not very predictable creatures. They don’t always eat the same amount at the same time each day. My boobs were engorged, confused, and feeling raw on a good day. You don’t wanna know what a bad day was like.

Also, with the new laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers, my previous employer was required to give me a pumping area (that was not a restroom) to use during the workday. Which I had no idea about and I was perfectly prepared to go pump in my car if needed. That probably would have been pretty awkward to some poor person who had to walk by my car in the parking lot.

I believe I got a pretty decent setup. A cute and comfy chair from Target and a small Ikea-like table were set in a small supply closet, next to a mini refrigerator to store any pumped milk. (So the other coworkers would not confuse my breast milk with the coffee creamer, I’m sure.)

My Human Resources Manager at the time was super supportive of the decision to breastfeed my daughter and the company was happy to assist me with whatever I needed within reason. However, when things were starting to pile up at work, it would cut into my pumping time and would cause me to be in an incredible amount of pain if I didn’t take care of business – at least two to three times during the workday. A dual electric pump was a necessity. I was so thankful that my insurance covered a Spectra S2 breast pump that I used at home, and that I received a Medela Pump in Style breast pump from my baby shower to use at work. I carried that Medela EVERYWHERE, and I loved that it was so discreet. It just looked like I was carrying around a harmless black tote bag.

pumpsss
The Spectra S2 (above) and the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (below).

Having the ability to take work home with me and use flex time if needed was huge, but I also needed to make sure in the long run, I kept work at work and didn’t bring it home with me. I was blessed to have this ability since I know that not every mom has the luxury of even a supply closet to use when needed if she chooses to breastfeed her child after returning to work. There are moms that I know that still need to use the work bathrooms to pump, despite the new laws put in place.

Fast forward a few months later, around the 6-month postpartum mark, and I noticed some changes – the milk I was producing seemed thicker and had more fat content in it. Shortly after I noticed this, I became extremely fatigued after every time I nursed PJ or pumped. I had forgotten that producing milk took a lot of energy from my body, and even more so now that PJ was starting to become more active and alert – she needed the extra energy, and it had to come from somewhere.

It was one of the few times where I actually had to eat more food to keep up with the caloric demands of this new milk. Worried that I would put back on the pounds from pregnancy, I had started to revert back to my old habits and diet, where I would only eat about 1200 calories in a day, along with exercise here and there. I was determined to get back to my pre-baby weight, and even that was considered overweight for my height, at 180 pounds.

However, breastfeeding moms need additional nutrition to keep milk supply up – which can be anywhere between an additional 400 to 500 calories a day or even more. It took some trial and error to realize that even though I was still overweight, I needed to be taking in at least 2000 calories a day. I was definitely not eating enough and I was thankful my mistake didn’t cause any damage to my milk supply.

I have to remember that weight loss after pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint. I will get there. I hope.

Now I am only 4 months away from meeting my goal of nursing PJ for one entire year. It has been a labor-intensive act, but I am forever grateful that this experience has helped me bond with my daughter and allowed me to slow down enough to spend quality time with her during her first months of life. Also, all the money I saved by not having to buy formula was also a huge bonus.

But after this, I’m definitely going to think twice about breastfeeding and if it would be the best choice once baby #2 comes along. And hopefully, that’s not for another few years.